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Building Customer Loyalty Through Happy Call Center Agents

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Joel Makhluf

This is the second in a series of posts on customer experiences in the call center, catch up and read the first post here: Why is Customer Experience in the Call Center Important

While a happy customer is a loyal customer, building customer loyalty often depends on a happy call center agent. This symbiosis is difficult to achieve when you start with the challenges of being a call center agent where endless customer interactions a day seldom start with a happy customer.

The challenges of being a customer support agent have always led to burnout, but during what many are calling the great turnover tsunami of the post pandemic age, burnout is even more prevalent and widespread. A recent poll by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also states that 57% of U.S. employees report job burnout.

Beyond that, the agents who stick around often lose motivation in their jobs. Only one in three customer service reps are engaged with 84 percent of them likely to look for a new job, which leads to customer service replacement costs of $14,113 per rep, according to Gartner.

This inability for call center agents to remain engaged is a manifestation of burnout where support, training, and technology are often lacking a holistic approach. That’s a problem for brands, where agents are the literal physical manifestation of a company for its customers. A grumpy agent is very unlikely to provide excellent service.

Burned out agents cannot consistently muster the empathy or communication intelligence to guide a customer journey to a happy conclusion. Without that happy customer experience, brand loyalty is impossible. But building that brand loyalty through customer experience starts with supporting the call center agent with the communication tools and support they need.

Building Brand Loyalty by Improving the Customer Experience

A structure of a good customer experience, which is built on the foundation of an engaged, empathetic, and emotionally intelligent call center agent always supports brand loyalty. That foundation is hard to deliver consistently in an environment where customer expectations are incredibly high, and their needs are often challenging. Call center managers often end up as adversaries when they can offer little more than reactive support to bad customer engagements that never led to first call resolution (FCR) or excellent customer experience.

Supervisors and agents need more than a reliable measure of agent performance. They need the support tools that help them guide the caller’s emotional state back to positive. Agents need ways to develop the “soft skills” of dynamically reacting to customers on a human level, with empathy and rapport in real time. Understanding customer emotion plays a key part in improving the customer experience, engagement, and brand loyalty, which leads to agent retention, increased sales, and ROI.

The role of customer service in building customer loyalty may seem clear but is often far hazier in terms of turning actions into goals. This is often because the guidance they get often relies on learning and repeating actions that they cannot easily remember, replicate, or adapt to real-world call center customer encounters.

Good call center agents can improve their emotional intelligence, empathetic listening, and adaptability to determine what the customer needs and how they want to interact.
What they need is support that can help them hone those skills in real time, in ways that are customized to each caller and capable of providing those tips in real time to steer the interaction. This is where conversational intelligence comes into play.

Using Conversational Intelligence to Create Happy Customers and Call Center Agents

While customers are telling agents what they want and need through an interaction, it’s not always obvious, straightforward, and in plain language. They can find these cues in the cadence of their voice, the words they use, and the nuances of speech around sarcasm and emotion. While agents can be trained to spot these cues, they often miss them, which can be avoided with the help of conversational intelligence.

In earlier blogs on conversational intelligence, we learned it combines forms of artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) technology. This intelligent automation supports agents by providing real time insights that improve interactions and customer experiences. This builds on and reinforces an agent’s natural ability for emotional intelligence and bolsters a variety of common practices used to reach first call and faster resolution.

Building active listening so people feel they are being heard can be challenging for agents trying to listen and gather/review relevant customer, product, or service data simultaneously. This often leads to missed emotional cues present in the words and speech of the customer.

Conversational intelligence support can help agents determine the different ways that customers want to communicate, whether that be briefly, quickly, and focused on the facts or more personable with small talk and banter. Using AI solutions to detect customer sentiment can help agents determine these differences and respond accordingly in real time based on the voice and speech patterns of the customer.

This intersects with all the common approaches that agents are taught by making them more effective by customizing them to each caller and interaction in real time. Just some ways it enhances these approaches and supports the agents to build customer relationships and loyalty include its ability to:

  • Support reflective and active listening so agents can determine how best and when to respond through summation of what the caller said and their concerns that may be couched in vocal emotion
  • Enhance their ability to use ongoing data collection to customize customer interactions by providing real-time prompts as to the customer’s mood and how to respond effectively based on the situation
  • Help agents determine when and how to provide context and additional information that fits the callers needs based on their emotion (impatient, angry etc.) to keep the interaction on track towards a happy resolution.
  • Anticipate mood and frustration level changes to get the conversation back on track

Real conversations are critical to developing a personal connection, which goes a long way to building customer value satisfaction and loyalty. to demonstrate empathy, communication skills, stress management, and reasoning in their daily interactions.

Building Customer Value, Satisfaction, and Loyalty with Cogito

Displaying empathy is only as effective as an agent’s ability to gauge the caller’s mood and resolve their issue quickly. That’s why it’s important to have intelligent automation support that can gauge their frustration level.

The ability to keep the call on track and moving toward FCR is not only a way to keep the customer happy but also keeps the agent happy since they are accomplishing their job efficiently and lowering their stress and frustration levels with each happy customer.

As a leader in real-time emotional intelligence software, Cogito supports an agent’s natural ability for human intelligence and empathy across every call during long, tiring days. This focuses on providing support with some of the intangibles of customer calls indicating rising frustration levels couched in sarcasm, increasing vocal cadence volume or specific words. The algorithm has been trained on massive data sets of real interactions and continually learns from new interactions to :

  • Measure conversational dynamics
  • Track customer interruptions by the agent and prompt the agent to correct behavior in real time
  • Assess the tone of voice of both the customer and the agent in real time

As the AI is doing this, it gives live feedback to the agent, so they have this insight into how the customer is feeling as the call is taking place. The ability to get support on how to adjust your approach to fit each customer in real time through prompts, insights, and reminders in real time will also provide insights to call center managers that can also use them for training and intervention purposes. This approach to enhancing a call agent’s natural emotional intelligence and empathetic abilities can have a profound impact on maximizing:

  • Shorter calls and FCR
  • Happier customers
  • Brand loyalty
  • Happy and more fulfilled agents
  • Greater job satisfaction
  • Agent longevity

With behavioral signals technology from Cogito, which can provide both in-call speaking guidance and measurable appraisals of soft skills, supervisors can train and mentor agents. And agents, with best-practice guidance from Cogito’s application, can even train themselves to be better at their jobs. The agent-customer relationship must be a memorable partnership, not an antagonistic pairing in which the agent feels irrelevant or anonymous. When the relationship is positive, both agents and customers are more engaged and satisfied, which ultimately leads to building customer loyalty.

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